The perfect Polish chef and a notorious wizard on the road to Lithuania

“A perfect cook” [Kucharz dostkonały] is the title given to one of the oldest cookbooks published in Polish whose author, Wojciech Wielądko, was born in a small village located on the ancient road from Warsaw to Vilnius, a little more than one-hour drive from Warsaw.

Truth be told,  Wielądko’s book was a translation from the Cuisinière bourgeoise by Menon, an extremely popular French food author from the 18th century. Nevertheless, it has gained a lot of publicity in Poland since it was published in 1783. The village itself is known only to the few people researching the history of the Polish cuisine, but in its vicinity you will find some very interesting and less touristically explored sites such as Liw and Węgrów.

If you are into local food and festivals then you should visit Liw during the annual international food fair, as I did in June. It was a delicious and illuminating culinary journey along the old trail to Lithuania. Tinctures (nalewka), vodkas, sausages made from boar or deer, honey and local versions of baked dumplings or buns called sójka – jay-like little birds. And my absolute favourite: potato tart or cake…. these were just a few delicacies I was able to taste.

Today the once mighty castle in Liw looks like a charming postcard of late medieval ruins. Originally built by the Dukes of Mazovia to protect the eastern border of their land, it was then destroyed in the 17th and 18th century. The castle was never restored to its former glory, but a new, smaller manor house was built on the site for local administration some 250 years ago. Today, you can visit it and discover a collection of weapons from different times and wars. The Liw Castle and its armoury has become a meeting place for the Polish re-enactment groups that organise annual tournaments there. The 2017 edition is scheduled for Aug 12th.

Nearby Węgrów is a perfect example of a multi-cultural town that was typical for Poland until WWII. Today you can visit an impressive Baroque Roman Catholic Basilica church and an original wooden Protestant church from 1679 (one of the oldest in Mazovia), while on a local Protestant cemetery you will find tombs of Scottish weavers who lived in the town more than 300 years ago.  Last but not least, there was a Jewish community, and today you will find a house in the centre that, according to tradition, belonged to local rabbis, and the Memorial to Jewish population killed during WWII.

And there is more to see and learn in Węgrów as there is a mirror used by the most notorious Polish wizards Jan Twardowski in his necromantic rituals. It is believed that one of the Polish kings asked his help to talk to his dearly beloved but sadly dead wife. The ritual was undertaken in the Royal Castle in Warsaw and according to the legend, it was successful. What is more, according to another old legend, Napoleon Bonaparte did see a devil in the mirror reflection so it is placed rather high over the sacristy doors to prevent anyone else from gazing into it. For many centuries the corpse of Twardowski the wizard  was kept in the church as it was impossible to bury him. Apparently, the soil refused to let him rest due to his magic!

Our service

We provide a guide and on request we can assist you with picnic, lunch or dinner booking in one of the local inns or agritourism farms. Węgrów and Liw are situated at 30 minutes’ driving distance from Treblinka, so you can get there after visiting the Holocaust Memorial.

War/saw: Warsaw and WWII

Are you interested in the city’s complex and heroic past? Would you like to find some traces of the WWII in Warsaw? It is possible even if you have just 3-4 hours to spare for a city walk and you prefer to stay in the city centre.

 

 

You can start your walk in the historic and well-known areas such as the Old Town, but you will need to focus on curiosities and details that are hidden in plain sight. For instance, let’s take the Column in the Castle Sq., the one erected in the memory of Sigismund III Vasa and the main meeting point in that part of Warsaw. Originally it was built in 1644, but, after almost 220 years, the old marble column was replaced with a granite one. Then, the whole monument was destroyed during the Warsaw Rising 1944, the column was shattered into pieces and the bronze statue of the king was lying on the ground. That view was shown on one of the photos of the ruined city after the war.

Subsequently, it was rebuilt but the old columns are still on the square, next to the entrance to the Castle. You will be able to tell which is the oldest one and which was a war casualty even if you have no idea how to distinguish marble form granite. My advice: look for bullet holes.

As far as the Royal Castle is concerned, there is a special music event commemorating the WWII destruction of the building. Every day at 11.15 you will hear a trumpet player who appears on the Castles’s main tower (the one under the clock). It is a bugle call created especially for commemorating the damage done by German bombings from the beginning of the WWII. On the 17th of September 1939 the clock on the Castle Tower stopped precisely at 11.15 am and that is why we have the music played shortly before noon.

There are other memorials in the Old Town as well. As you walk in the vicinity of the St. John the Baptist Cathedral you will find small plaques commemorating barricades created by the Polish insurgents during the WWII. Last, but not least, the majestic 1944 Warsaw Rising Memorial will give a unique visual comment to the stories of bravery you may know from history books.

 


Warsaw is also one the most important Holocaust sites in Europe and some of the most significant memorials are located within a walking distance from the reconstructed walls of the Old Town. In 1940 the Jewish Ghetto was established in the Northern District of the city. Although the ghetto itself was razed to the ground after the Ghetto Rising in 1943, the traces of its existence are still to be found. For example, just outside of the Krasiński Garden you will see one of the Ghetto Wall Markers to show you the boundaries of the district.

Then, a few minutes away, you will be able to pay your respects to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto at the stairs of the famous memorial. If you decide to walk along the Ghetto Memory Trail, then you will get to the Umschlagplatz area, the very place from where the Jews were deported to the Treblinka II death camp during WWII. The urbanscape of that part of the city is modern, but even a short walk in a comunist-style housing estate will provide architectural and spatial context to the tragic history of the Warsaw Jews.

For more city walks in winter and in summer click our Warsaw section.

Our service:

This is a 3 -4-hour walking tour. However, there is a possibility to use very convenient public transport or a private car – if needed. There are daily or longer period tickets for the city’s trams and buses available in kiosks or ticket machines located at the major stops.

This itinerary offers you a very convenient start for further exploration. In the Old Town area you will find the Royal Castle with its art collection and a special exhibition on its WWII destruction and the subsequent reconstruction. But if you are more interested in the reconstruction of the Old Town district as a whole– then go to the Muzeum Warszawy (the Warsaw City Museum) and see the exhibition located on Brzozowa St. in the Old Town. As far as the history of the Warsaw’s Ghetto is concerned, we strongly recommend a visit to the Holocaust Gallery in the Polin Museum

We provide guiding services in the city and in the museums. There are entrance fees to museums. Tickets for individual visitors must be bought at the museums’ ticket offices. Group visits must be booked via the official website or the booking offices (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.

Royal Baths of Warsaw: peacocks, squirrels and gondolas

 Peacocks, squirrels and gondolas… you will find all that, and more in Łazienki / the Royal Baths of Warsaw  or Park Łazienkowski. These names are given to one place that is considered the most magical in Warsaw. This is a common belief shared by the local people and visitors. So, what is all the fuss about?

The Royal Baths of Warsaw is a complex of gardens and villas created originally in the second half of the 18th century for the Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski. Today it is 76 hectares of greenery in the city centre and (at least) three different gardens, so even a short walk is like a live lecture on the history of landscape architecture.

The oldest part is called the Royal Garden and it was created in the 18th century, then there is the Romantic Garden (the 19th century). The 20th century Modernist Garden is the most famous and photographed part due to the Fryderyk (this is the Polish spelling!) Chopin Monument and summer piano recitals. There is also a Chinese garden – the newest addition to the Łazienki complex designed following the Prince Kung’s Mansion in Beijing.

Mind you, we are talking about the major attraction in Warsaw with a very busy cultural calendar full of concerts and events: the Chinese lanterns festival or Chopin recitals are just the most famous ones. The Polish Tourist Organisation recorded that in 2013 Łazienki were visited by a little over than 2 000 000 people and the survey showed the constant increase in number of visiters in 2011-2013. Sometimes, especially on spring or autumn weekends, finding a secluded spot can be really challenging.  Monday to Friday are much less busy. Alternatively,  you can decide to visit the royal villas as most visitors focus on the gardens.

All the greenery is just a part of Łazienki as there are several royal villas to visit. The main one is called the Palace on the Isle (in Polish: Pałac na Wyspie). Then, there is the White Pavilion and the Myślewicki Palace.What is more, the king was renowned for his vast cultural interests and this is why you can find two theatres in his park: the open-air Amphitheatre and the elegant, wooden hall that was arranged in the building of the Old Orangery. All in all, you can stay here all day or come for a short walk, but it is an absolute must see in our city.

Our service:

The guided sightseeing includes a walk in the gardens and visits to the king’s villas such as the Palace on the Isle or the Old Orangery with an original 18th. century theatre. We provide guides who are licensed for both gardens and villas.

The entrance to the park and summer Chopin recitals is free but there is an entrance fee to villas. The ticket price depends on the number of villas you decide to visit.

To the Heroes of the Ghetto

 

When you are at the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial just look around you. You will find many interesting memorials as the world famous memorial created by Nathan Rapaport and Leon Suzin is just one way we pay our respect to the heroes of the Ghetto. For example, every year, around 19th of April you are going to see a lot of daffodils in the area of the former ghetto. We decorate the city with the yellow flowers to show that we remember about the Jewish fighters from WWII.

Let’s begin with the name of the famous memorial. It is called To the Heroes of the Ghetto or the Rapaport Memorial – as Nathan Rapaport (or Rappaport) was the author of the sculptures. It was created in 1948 and since then has witnessed many important events: this is the very spot where Willy Brandt (Chancellor of Federeral Republic of Germany) knelt down in 1970 in a gesture of penance and humility. BTW, there is a memorial to that event and it is located at the other end of the square.

What’s interesting, there is another memorial built next to the famous one. In fact, the decision to build a monument to the Ghetto fighters was taken in 1944. As a consequence, the first small memorial, designed by Leon Suzin, was unveiled in April 1946. You can see it today, it is located a few meters from the Rapaport Memorial, but it is much less impressive. Look for a simple piece of red limestone in the shape of a circle, with a palm leaf, the Hebrew letter bet and an inscription written in Hebrew, Polish and Yiddish.

 

There are some interesting photos from the unveiling ceremonies at the core exhibition of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The museum itself was opened in 2014 and since then has been considered one of the best of its kind. For example, in 2016 it was rewarded with European Museum Academy Award, but it’s best if you see it for yourself. The building was designed by Rainer Mahlamäki, an architect from Finland.

In spring, in the vicinity of the memorials, you can find flowers with a special meaning. For example the Irena Sendler red tulips named after a nurse and a social worker who saved 2500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Then, there are a lot of yellow daffodils: some planted and some just laid in the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto fighters and their last commander – Marek Edelman. He used to leave a bunch of the spring flowers on the Rappaport Memorial every April, on the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1943 Ghetto Rising. This is why daffodils have become symbolic flowers for the Jewish fighters from WWII; just look at the temporary mural by Andrzej Wieteszka created in spring 2017 in the city centre.

In between flowers and stones and in front of the entrance to the Polin Museum, you can find medium-sized, dark blocks of stone. They are part of the Memorial Route of Jewish Martyrdom and Struggle in Warsaw 1940 – 1943. The stones, placed there in 1988, will lead you towards the Umschlagplatz Memorial. It’s not easy to read what was written on them, but if you focus, you will be able to discover names and events important for the history of Jews in Warsaw.

Our service:

We provide guiding services in the Polin Museum. Tickets for individual visitors can be bought both on line and in the Museum. Group visits must be booked via the Polin Museum official website (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.

#selfiewithchopin, multimedia and national pride

Let’s start from the beginning – there is a photo competition in Warsaw organised by the Bureau of the city’s promotion. It is simple: take a selfie with Chopin, hashtag it: #selfiewithchopin #contest and wait for the results. It lasts until May 14th (2017), but there are Chopin themed multimedia that you can enjoy all the time. As you can see on my Facebook fun page, I do it quite often. But then, why do we like the Chopin’s music so much? And was he French or Polish? These are genuine questions some tourists asked me at the playing musical benches.

First of all, the multimedia. Downloading app Selfie with Chopin will give you access to some info on his bio and music. Then, there is another app called Chopin in Warsaw. It will provide you with some old views of Warsaw, so you could really see Frederic Chopin’s Warsaw. What is more, you can access not just some old photos, but there are a few Augmented Reality stops. For example, at the Czapski/Krasiński Palace on Krakowskie Przedmieście St. you will find a view of the composer’s drawing room. BTW, that was his last address in Warsaw before he left the city in 1830, and he created there both of his piano concertos.

The apps will guide you along Frederic Chopin itinerary marked by playing musical benches. They were installed in 2010 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the pianist’s birth. For instance, there is one in the Royal Łazienki Park and it plays a piece of the famous Polonaise in A Major (op. 40 no 1). Or you can listen to the part of the Sonata in B flat minor (op.35) renowned for so-called Funeral March at the entrance to the Holy Cross Church where Chopin’s heart is buried. The list and the locations of all playing musical benches is published on the city’s website called Chopin’s Warsaw. There is a printed version of it available in the tourist information points.

Planning a visit to Żelazowa Wola, the Chopin’s Birthplace Museum? There is a selfie stop there as well. You can take a photo of an AR Chopin just next to the bushes of Chopin’s Roses, the Polish variety created to honour the musician. Additionally, you can download an audioguide with some extra content, such as a short documentary on the Mazovia region and other places visited by the young composer in our region. It is available on the official site of the Museum.

Last, but not least, why do we have such an obsession with Frederic Chopin? After all, his father was French and he lived in France half of his life. Well, Chopin considered himself a Polish citizen and was very proud of it. Then, we consider him the most important and the most famous Polish composer. What is more, his music became one of the national symbols and was seen as such by the occupants of our country. To begin with, there was a ban on playing Chopin’s music in public in Warsaw in the XIX century. This regulation was applied on the territories that, like Warszawa, had belonged to our, Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom, but were under the Russian occupation since 1795. That was a personal decision of the Russian Tsar taken after crushing the Polish Insurrection in 1830 and 1831. The similar, anti-Chopin law was introduced by the Nazis after seizing Poland in 1939. The Polish people were not allowed to play it in public or listen to it’s recordings and the monument from the Royal Łazienki Park was destroyed. This is why, playing Chopin in public has become a political statement after WWII and the open air concerts started.

The best way to understand our feelings and emotions about Chopin is by watching Roman Polanski film on Władysław Szpilman called the Pianist or joining one of the open air summer concerts in Warsaw or Żelazowa Wola. All in all, it is a very nice way to get to know our capital city.

The highlights of Warsaw and a selfie with Frederic Chopin

What are the highlights of Warsaw? Well, the absolute must see in the historic area of Warsaw include: the Old Town (UNESCO World Heritage site), glimpses on Wisła (our river), the elegant Krakowskie Przedmieście, the modern University of Warsaw Library and its roof garden, the Chopin’s heart and… a personal selfie photo session with the composer.

First of all – don’t worry about the Chopin’s heart. Actually, you can’t see it as it is hidden in a niche and covered with a proper stone plaque. Then, be prepared for the story of the afterwar reconstruction. Historically speaking, the Old Town heritage covers almost 7 centuries of architecture, but most of it was recreated after WWII.

Next, visiting the St. John the Baptist Cathedral (Roman Catholic) or the Market Sq. provides you with a unique opportunity to feel the inner strength of the Polish nation. The people’s will brought about the reconstruction of the entire district on a unique scale in the history of the world. It’s not an exaggeration: the reconstruction was the reason why the Old Town in Warsaw was listed as the part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

Then, the Warsaw University Campus with its duality: the grand and noble buildings of the old section in Krakowskie Przedmieście and quite unique modern architecture in the Powiśle area, such as one of the Warsaw icons: the New University Library Building with its remarkable roof garden and a panoramic view on the Wisła river and the city centre.

In November 2016 we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the University as it was established in 1816. The Krakowskie Przedmieście Campus is worth visiting also as a place closely associated with biographies of its alumni, such as Frederic Chopin. This is where you will find one of the playing musical benches. And you can take a selfie with the composer right at the entrance to his home – all you have to do is download the free app called selfie with Chopin from the official tourist site of the city or ask your guide!

For more city walks in winter and in summer click our Warsaw section.

Our service:

This is our most popular 3 -4-hour walking tour. However, there is a possibility to use very convenient public transport or a private car – if needed. There are daily or longer period tickets for the city’s trams and buses available in kiosks or ticket machines located at the major stops.

This itinerary offers you a very convenient start for further exploration. In the Old Town area you will find the Royal Castle with its art collection. But if you are more interested in the reconstruction – then go to the Muzeum Warszawy (the Warsaw City Museum) and see the exhibition located on Brzozowa St. in the Old Town.

We provide guiding services. There are entrance fees to both museums. Tickets for individual visitors must be bought at the museums ticket office. Group visits must be booked via the official website or the booking offices (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.

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Dzień dobry! Hello!

My name is Agnieszka. I am a guide and Tailored tours in Poland is my project. As for guiding and tourism, I have been working for 16 years and I am licensed to guide in the major Warsaw’s museums such as the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the Royal Castle, the Chopin Museum. Since 2015, I has been accredited as a professional guide trainer with the World Federation of Tourist Guide Association.

I speak English and Italian. Presently, I am learning Hebrew. My home away from home is in Venice, as I was given a scholarship at Ca Foscari Univeristy, and I lived there for a year. However, Warszawa is my favourite and happy place and sharing my day-to-day experience as a local citizen is both my pleasure and mission.

In addition, I am a temporary academic lecturer at the University of Warsaw and the College of Communication, Political Science and International Relations (also in Warsaw). I have lectures on the methodology of historical research and tourism. Personally, I like music, food and good company. Last, but not least, I grow tomatoes on my terrace and live with two cats.

To find out more about Tailored tours in Poland go to the sections: about us and our programmes. And if you have any questions – don’t hesitate to contact me!

Praga: eastern bazaar, bears at the tram stop and more…

The eastern bazaar is called in Polish Bazar Różyckiego and it is the oldest in Warsaw; bears are for real as they live in a zoological garden enclosure. What more can you find in Praga?

Praga in Warsaw, the eastern part of the city, is a district where you can explore multicultural traditions. Jews, Roman Catholics and  Orthodox Christians have lived together for many centuries and that is why churches and synagogues were built in a very close proximity. Secondly, it was almost not destroyed during WWII and you can still recognise some views from the 100 years old postcards and photos. Even a short walk offers a complete change of urbanscape for people who are familiar with the Warsaw’s city centre with its reconstructions and communist architecture.

Truth be told, some of the houses are in need of a complete makeover and some must be properly restored. Unsurprisingly, the most neglected streets were used as WWII film sets – the most famous case being the Pianist on Władysław Szpilman’s war experiences. The eastern district seemed to be a perfect film substitute for the Warsaw ghetto scenery.

A walk in Praga may be full of surprises. You can meet  – bronze musicians in the middle of the street. They used to be a local entertainment as they wandered around the city with their music. There is more: an original bunker from the times of WWII and “pyzy”: an emblematic street food from Bazar Różyckiego. The home made dumplings filled with meat and served with a lot of gravy were sold from glass jars. Today, you can have meat or vegetarian option in one of the bars around the bazaar.

Our service:

Our 3 hours walk will take you to the centre of the district in the vicinity of the Różycki Bazaar and the Zoo. There is a possibility to combine this itinerary with visiting the Praga Museum (a local historical museum of the district and the Jewish prayer house from the 1800’s) and the Żabińskis villa with the hideouts built to save Jews from the Ghetto; for more information go to the post on the Jewish heritage in Praga.

There is an entrance fee to Praga Museum – the Jewish prayer house entrance is included in the Praga Museum ticket.

There is an entrance fee to the Zoo and . The visit may be arranged in the mornings and early afternoons only and it will take approximately 1 hour.

Wilanow

Warsaw became a capital city of Poland at the turn of the 17th c. Subsequently, the kings and the most influential aristocrats turned the new capital into a city of palaces and gardens – all in the Baroque style! The Wilanow Palace and Garden, located in the distant southern part of the city, and not destroyed during the WWII, is a perfect place to see how it was like to be the mighty king of Poland and Lithuania.

The Wilanow Palace is considered to be one of the oldest museums in Poland. The Baroque royal apartments, private rooms decorated in the 18th century style and halls created in the 19th c. – all that is opened for every visitor. The museum itinerary includes also the so-called Polish Portrait Gallery with a collection of paintings from the 16th to the 19th centuries, such as the Portrait of Count Stanisław Potocki by Jacques-Louis David and the coffin portraits characteristic for the Old Polish culture.

Then, the palace is surrounded by a mix of formal Baroque garden, a romantic English-Chinese park, and an English landscape park. And a landscape specialist will be able to find some more influences. There are many music concerts being held both in the halls and in the gardens. And in winter, the museum is renowned for its gardens of light installations.

Our service
We provide guiding services – we can guide you in the Museum permanent exhibition and the gardens. Tickets to Wilanow for individual visitors must be bought at the Wilanow Museum ticket office (no possibility of on-line booking). Group visits must be booked via the Wilanow official website (no more than 25 pax in a group). On request, we can assist you with the booking.
A guided tour of the Wilanow Palace * takes approx.: 60 – 80 min.
A guided tour of the Gardens* takes min. 30-40 min.
* Please note that availability of exhibitions, the opening hours and the guiding restrictions are subject to the Wilanow Museum Regulations